The best way for kids to learn a second language is to experience it. Games are a great way to “experience” a language and learn by doing.
Children perceive and remember information emotionally. When kids experience positive emotions, they are more engaged in the learning process and retain information longer. Furthermore, positive emotions are associated with fun.
The active use of games has a tremendous impact on helping children learn a 2nd language. Games make kids active participants in the learning process, while the pursuit of victory motivates them to learn more.
What type of games can we use to help kids learn a 2nd language? Here are 4 game categories that help build different skills in the 2nd language.
1. Communication-based games
These games foster a conversation or a dialogue around the theme. Role-playing is a good example: you are a restaurant owner and I am the customer. Playing with puppets or dolls and solving a mystery together is also an engaging game for kids.
2. Games that help with listening
Does the game help my child listen to good input in the second language. A video game with lots of comments in the 2nd language can be a good game. Our son Pablo likes soccer. We downloaded FIFA 2014 with French audio, which has lots of comments. Pablo retains the expressions in French because he is so immersed in the game.
3. Writing and spelling-based games
Learning how to write and spell words is way more fun as a game-based activity. Playing hangman is a good example to help with spelling in the 2nd language. For older kids, playing online multi-player games where players have to chat with each other is another good way to practice writing.
4. Games that encourage reading
For children that learn how to read in the second language, following written instructions to solve clues is very helpful. A treasure hunt can be a good way to instill that.
Do you use games to help kids learn a 2nd language? If so, which ones do you recommend?
Tip #30: If you have a dog or a cat, talk to them in the target language. Great way for the kids to play and practice.
Tip #29: Planning a trip for spring break / summer vacation? Look for a travel journal in your minority language for the children (tip from Be_Bilingual)
Tip #28: Go book hunting together: kids are more likely to engage a book in language number 2 if they selected it
Tip #27: Keep a few books in the 2nd language on the backseat in your car. Kids are likely to flip through them while you drive together to school or to the supermarket.
Tip #26: Listen to your kids and do not interrupt their train of thought in language #2
Tip #25: Use hand puppets with toddlers to teach basic expressions in the 2nd language (tip from Corinne Wilhelm)
Tip #24: Write short messages in language #2 for your kids and put them on the dinner table, the school folder, the lunch box,…
Tip #23: Make it fun to talk about animals in the 2nd language using hand shadows
Tip #22: Create a dedicated “read-a-story” space at home, a cozy corner in a room to sit down and read in language #2
Tip #21: Brush teeth with music: play your kids favorite song in the 2nd language
Comic books have several advantages when it comes to helping children learn a 2nd language:
- Images help children understand more easily the meaning of a sentence in the 2nd language.
- Comic books help expand a child’s vocabulary. Comics can introduce them to non-standard words and phrases which are not typically found in traditional story books.
- As kids get older, they can start reading some of the words on their own.
- Once kids are able to read in the 2nd language, you can make it fun by reading together and role-playing different characters.
Here are 4 tips on how comic books can help children learn a 2nd language:
#40: Start early. When pushing the stroller, describe to your toddler what you see in language #2.
#39: Read the same story to your toddler in the minority language. Small kids love the routine and will absorb every word.
#38: Put a short poem in the 2nd language in the school bag of your child for Valentine’s Day. Or a kind note on any other day.
#37: Read together a cartoon/comic book about your hometown. Your voice will probably sound different.
#36: When on a road trip, put your kids in the co-pilot’s seat and print out Google Maps directions in language #2.
#35: When reading an illustrated book together, ask open-ended questions about what you see.
#34: Ask grandpa to go over his stamp collection and talk about countries and monuments in the 2nd language.
#33: Help your kids watch their favorite sport event in the 2nd language.
#32: Take paper plates at snack time and write little notes in the target language (see picture above).
#31: Dress up, have fun and role play a character in the 2nd language.
There are many dads who are hands-on in giving their children the gift of bilingualism. As one dad told us, “I have great memories of going to German school and learning German on top of English. I would like my daughter to have fond memories of learning another language also.”
One of the great benefits of raising a child with a second language is that it creates a unique bond between a parent and kids.
Here are some tips specifically for us dads to make it as fun as possible for our children to learn a second language. These tips are obviously not gender specific. They apply perfectly to moms, aunts, uncles and grandparents. These are, however, tips coming from dads that can give ideas to other dads.
Play your favorite sport
Spend time with the kids teaching the basics of your favorite sport. Doing it in the target language is like having tqo scoops of ice-cream for the price of one. When the learning is combined with play, retention of the vocabulary is faster.
#50: Play hangman in the car. Letters are attached to the board. Great in any language http://on.fb.me/11fYDOQ
#49: Subscribe to a monthly magazine in the 2nd language. Kids are excited to receive mail.
#48: Watch a free BrainPop short movie in Spanish with the kids. Arts, Sciences, Social Sciences, Maths,… http://esp.brainpop.com/freemovies/
#47: Have a mailbox inside the house to leave secret messages to your children in the 2nd language (tip from Be_bilingual)
#46: Watch a soccer game, or any sports event your kids like, in the 2nd language. Is there anything better than watching Barcelona or Real Madrid play with Spanish audio?
#45: Check out Pinterest to find app recommendations in the 2nd language. Here a board for French apps for kids from Sarah at Baby Bilingual
#44: Kids love making their own videos. Give them the camera or phone and have them record while you read a short story in the 2nd language. They will watch it several times.
#43: Leave a book in the 2nd language on the kitchen table before breakfast. Chances are the kids will ask you to read it.
#42: Build a wheel to teach los días de la semana (tip from Spanish Playground)
#41 Ask your kids to help you make their favorite dish by reading the recipe in the 2nd language.
We launched J'apprends l'Anglais™, our app to expose children to high frequency words in English.
Sight words provide an excellent base for reading at an early age. They are often called sight words because some of them can’t be sounded out, and need to be learned by sight. The application features sight words from the Dolch Word List, grouped by class level.
1. Spanish vocabulary is much more fun to learn when you cook together a “paella”.
2. Your son or daughter can make a real difference by helping a Spanish-speaking child that came to your country integrate easily in school.
3. "Ay, Ay, Ay, Ay": singing “Cielito Lindo” along with a Mexican mariachi band fills your heart with joy.
#59: Check out www.childrenslibrary.org, a free online library with around 4,500 digitized children’s books in 55 languages (tip from Annika @ Be_Bilingual).
#58: Think about compound interest: 10min a day of reading in language #2 = equivalent of 2,000 children audiobooks over 10 years.